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Full text of "Rapid Population Growth Consequences And Policy Implications"

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Spacing the interval between births is good for both children and parents.* It enhances the intellectual development of children and the health and tran-quility of mothers. Even in societies where average family size is relatively large, spacing is extensively practiced (6).
A fourth element in reproductive decisions, not present in decisions to add a profit-making sheep to our flock, has been observed by Rainwater.''' In his intensive studies of working-class parents, he found that among those who had more children than they professed to want there were parents who reported that they had exceeded their own family-size ideals because they did not wish to be seen as selfish by their neighbors. This desire to be seen as an unselfish, kind, and public-spirited person could be used to bring about a wider acceptance of small family-size ideals. In view of the social problems generated by rapid rates of population growth, generous impulses can now best be exhibited by having only the children that society considers desirable or necessary.
Of course, Hardin might contend that the shepherd who adds to his flock is not deterred by the possibility that such additions will be seen as selfish by other shepherds using the same grazing land. In his case, however, selfishness and profit are linked; but in childbearing and child rearing, unselfishness is linked with benefit.
Where children serve to provide a substitute for a social security system or where they bring economic profit through their labor, the situation begins more nearly to approximate the one depicted by Hardin. Nevertheless, the constraints that we have cited obtain even in the rural villages of less developed countries where children are often economic assets. There are some recent indications that in areas where agricultural productivity is increasing, birth rates are coming down, for example in certain areas of India (46). Given the history of the demographic transition in developed nations, this should hardly come as a surprise. If adding children were like adding sheep to one's flock, however, birth rates should be going up. Surely Hardin's analogy is at best an uncertain one, and, at worst, inappropriate.$
Davis and Blake have also expressed the belief that individual couples will not voluntarily provide for the collective interests of society but will, given the strongly positive public attitude toward parenthood and especially toward motherhood, persist in having relatively large families (8, 42). Like Hardin, they do not take into account any of the four constraining factors we have cited.
*See the essays by Harvey Leibenstein, T. Paul Schultz, and Joe D. Wray in this volume.
tsee (44) and (45), particularly Chapters 5 and 6, in which the concern for unselfish parenthood is documented for the middle class as well as the working class.
'"This is not to deny the existence-of interests that may in the long run keep family size just high enough to prove troublesome. control. Dr. Hilton Salhanick has observed that some women practicing the rhythm method will break or lose their thermometers at the critical juncture in theirright, therefore alwayshas some c